Tackling all Austin has to offer in a week can seem like a daunting task, but with a little preparation and a bit of perspiration – this is Texas after all – it can be done! Whether it’s trendy nightlife you crave, first-class restaurants or just somewhere to relax and let the worries of the world slip away, this incredible city has you covered.
See out the day by watching the sun set over Lake Austin while getting stuck into “Tex-Mex with a Hawaiian twist” at Hula Hut. Make sure to try one of the restaurant’s signature Hu-La-La cocktails (a fishbowl of rum and fruit juice).
Finally, since it’s Taco Tuesday and you’re in Texas, you might as well indulge. Head to La Condesa in the Second Street District and enjoy some mezcal while sampling a selection of tacos that, depending on where you’re from, could make you wonder if you ever actually had the real thing before.
Take a day trip to barbecue’s holy land, Lockhart. Instead of spending most of your day in line at an Austin eatery, try heading out to the country. Designated by the Texas Legislature as the Barbecue Capital of Texas, Lockhart is about a 70-mile round trip from Austin and is home to first-class dining establishments such as Kreuz Market, Smitty’s Market and Black’s Barbecue. Be sure to try all three, but Smitty’s – which sparked a feud with Kreuz (founded in 1900) by opening up with nearly the same menu in that restaurant’s own historic building shortly after it moved out in 1999 – is consistently great. Black’s brisket may also just give Austin standout Franklin’s a run for its money.
Find your weekend outfit on South Congress Avenue. Shop for proper Texas footwear at Allens Boots or Heritage Boot. Pick up a one-of-a-kind artistic piece at Parts & Labour, or scour the racks at Feathers Boutique. Check out the Native American jewelry sourced from across the Southwest at Turquoise Trading Post and then satisfy your sweet tooth at the Big Top Candy Shop. Stop by Lucy in Disguise With Diamonds to gawk at the elaborate costumes, followed by a burger and a brew at Hopdoddy. Finish off the day by popping into Jo’s Coffee next door – make sure to take a picture in front of the “I Love You So Much” mural, which has become as much a symbol of Austin as its music.
Stay east and explore the funkier part of the city. Enjoy habanero-infused tequila at Stay Gold on its open-air patio. Grab a drink at Hotel Vegas and maybe catch some live music. Practice your two-step at The White Horse while country music plays, or dance the night away to hip-hop at The Eastern.
At night hit up the historic Sixth Street. Although the area has garnered the nickname The Dirty over the years in some circles for perceived lawlessness, it still offers a range of live music venues, cheap drinks and various other potential thrills for anyone willing to brave the crowds. It’s also home to one of the nation’s best vaudeville troupes, Esther’s Follies.
After you make the loop, take a ride to Rainey Street and its crowded but much less chaotic bar scene. Have a chilled-out night at Lucille Patio Lounge, or look for love in the Container Bar. Whatever your vibe is, Rainey has it all. Finish off with some Detroit-style pizza from the Via 313 trailer.
Before you can truly experience all the city has to offer, you first have to establish your home base. Austin has plenty of great hotels, Airbnbs, hostels and other accommodation for the weary traveler. But rooms fill up quickly, and the constant flow of festivals and events in the city could leave you stranded without a place to stay or paying a premium for somewhere if you don’t plan ahead. Here are three choices Culture Trip recommends.
For the student, budget traveler and the adventurer, the Native is a synergistic environment that showcases art, nurtures music and merrymaking, and features communal living areas plus private rooms. The Native is perfect for wandering groups struck or the solo traveler looking to make like-minded friends and indulge in everything Austin has to offer. The Native Bar & Kitchen provides residents with coffee, more mercurial liquid libations and food, while the 3,400-square-foot grand ballroom is the center of the party.
Got a bit more cash, a little less tolerance for noise and a need to understand what is meant by “Keep Austin Weird?” Then Austin Motel is your starting point. This historic venue is located in the heart of the city’s trendy South Congress neighborhood, and its iconic phallic sign floats high over the shops and eateries below – a neon welcome mat for visitors. The motel’s 1960s ambience belies the simple luxury within, but the accommodation’s most important features include its knowledgeable staff, location at the center of the places to see and be seen, top-notch pool and deck, and easy access to Austin’s beloved hike-and-bike trail.